The Chaos Of Covid 19: A Personal Reflection

A junior psychiatry MO in the hospital I am currently attached to came to me one day and asked my point of view regarding whether she should go ahead and volunteer to be a front-liner for Covid-19 screening.

“Kak Afiza, we have been asked to volunteer our names to be one of the front-liners for Covid-19 screening. I am not sure whether I should give my name or not. I am worried if I might fall ill and not be able to handle it.”

I didn’t mince words when I said “I would have volunteered, if I were you. If I am not currently doing my attachment and have to finish this attachment within the timeframe, I would have volunteered. You will certainly benefit from the experience, no doubt about it. In fact, I am planning to volunteer once I have finished with this rotation and am back in my hometown, if they still need volunteers.”

This was not just a lip service for me. I love volunteer works because I always learn a lot by volunteering. I was in Program Khidmat Sosial Negara (PKSN) as a 17 year old girl, and I still remember what a good experience I had as a PKSN trainee. Unfortunately, my study commitment interfered with my love of volunteerism for many years after that (I was in KMB for my IB diploma, and then went to Australia for my medical studies, and then there was that 2 years of that grueling housemanship period to go through). As an MO, I volunteered in early 2014 during the massive flood in Kelantan as part of the PFA team. And then I volunteered to be a polling agent and counting agent for Pakatan Harapan in May 2018 and that was a very illuminating experience. And at the end of 2018, I volunteered under IMARET for the humanitarian mission to Palu Sulawesi to do psychological first aid for the survivors of the devastating Palu earthquake and tsunami. 2018 was a good year for me because I did not take any exam in that year and I was quite free. Unfortunately, for the whole year of 2019, I was swamped with CASC preparation and did not get any opportunity to contribute much. But I have missed doing volunteer works that would jolt me out of the same routine every day. My good friend who volunteered with me to Palu is currently a front-liner for handling Covid-19 cases as well. I would have loved to be able to join her. I have told her before when we were in Palu, volunteerism is addictive.

At each of my volunteer mission, I gained massively in terms of knowledge, sense of personal achievement and  feeling of contentment. I love being able to experience how people handle difficulties in life. The reflection that follows each encounter with people who are less fortunate than you is something you cannot get elsewhere. It builds my own resilience and helps me tremendously in facing future difficulties, as I remember how much more fortunate I am as a whole. It told me that life really is fragile and there is nothing much you need to fear because life will continue to happen to you, anyway. You can only do your best and trust God. Volunteerism is not just about having a physical and mental experience that will enrich your life, but volunteerism is SPIRITUAL too. This is something you can never understand unless you experience it yourself. And trust me, you will be addicted to that experience.

(I wrote about my experience in Palu here. You may click the link H.E.R.E to read about it https://afizaazmee.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/palusulawesi-reflection-a-spiritual-journey/)

The next day the junior psychiatry MO told me “I already submitted my name as a volunteer. Feel better about it after talking to you.”

I wished her good luck and prayed for her continuous well-being as a front-liner. The last time I checked on her via Whatsapp she was doing very well and as predicted, she enjoyed the experience.

When you do something that Allah has created you to do – to be a khalifah of this world, to be of benefits to your fellow human beings, to fulfil the purpose of your creation – the sunnhatullah is such that you will feel content. Experience NEVER go to waste. It will make you such an interesting person to talk to, at the very least.

Because we are a sum of our experience.

 

We Are a Sum of Our Experience

Growing up, I admit that I got easily bored talking to people. I just could not stand the small talk that we are expected to make during kenduri, get-togethers and reunion and I would avoid having to  talk to people for an extended period of time. There was nothing for me to talk about with them. Most of them didn’t read what I read…. So what common ground did we have? Zip, zero, nada! What common area of topic and interest can we converse about? Zilch!  Bosan!  I was bored silly and I just wanted to go into my room and read the latest adventure in my next book. (But of course, my parents didn’t allow me to.)

There were times when I feel like I was more mature than my peers. I didn’t enjoy running around playing ‘police sentry one to jaga’. I just felt like “Apadia ni? Ligan-ligan, lari-lari penat… for what purpose?”. I enjoyed it as a 4 year old kid, maybe. But by the time I knew how to read (I was 5 years old), playing lari-lari no longer appealed to me.  I really did not feel it was fun. I preferred card games and chess, book-reading and story writing. So, I got easily bored with most kids my age but I did have 3 good friends in the primary school who shared my interest in reading.

As I grew up into my teenage hood, my father did not think I had enough maturity to attend a boarding school as a 13 year old girl.  I thought he was wrong… because I felt like I was matured enough to handle it. But looking back, I think my interpersonal skill was not that good. Haha. I don’t think I could survive communal living as a 13 year old because I was a very self-centred young girl. I didn’t like to share any of my stuff. I didn’t like it when people wanted to share food or drinks with me…. because I geli hahaha. And in hostel, most kids really like to take other people’s stuff and I would have made a lot of enemies if I went into the hostel environment with an attitude of obvious stinginess like that (as opposed to subtle stinginess LOL)

As a 16 year old girl, I was finally allowed to attend a boarding school of MRSM Langkawi. Even then, I had to adjust quite a bit. I made sure I had two bottles of drinks with me in my room… one bottle was exclusively for me and another bottle was for anyone else who randomly requested for my drinks. (My problem solving skill improved, see? People requesting to share my drinks was a problem to me hahha! But I found ways to maintain my ideal of what is hygienic while also being able to fulfil their request.)

As a teenager having to be in a communal living, I learned how to do small talk. I still preferred talking to someone who shared my interest (by this time I took up poetry writing, thanks to the influence of my roommate, Miss A) but I was no longer that awkward or that bored around people. Over time, I learned to be less self-absorbed. Previously, if things were boring TO ME, I just wanted to get out of that situation and cut the conversation short. Because I felt like, if I was bored, then of course you must feel the same way too. By cutting the conversation short or not engaging at all, I saved BOTH of us from being bored with each other. We can now go and do something else with our time. More efficient use of our resources, right?

But because of having to be in a communal living, I gradually understood the value of good-quality friendships (not just ANY friendship. But GOOD QUALITY ones, ok. Please take note.). With no family around other than hostel friends, I learned that my life was more pleasant when I had good friendships in the hostel.

Before living in a hostel and mixing with people who are not my own family, my idea of friendship was pretty rigid. “If we didn’t have anything in common and therefore neither of us will be interesting to each other, then I didn’t really want to spend time with you because it will be so boring.”  Peer pressure…. It did NOT really work with me. Even if I might succumb to peer pressure and societal expectation occasionally, it wouldn’t be sustainable. Sooner or later, I would have analyzed whether or not this kind of activity/behaviour/mindset MAKES SENSE and gradually I would have escaped from such pressure by choosing other friends or shift my attention to books. When some people had a whole lot of friends to always do things together (pi kantin sekali, pi toilet satu geng), I didn’t understand it. To me, it was so time-consuming and inefficient to wait for everyone to be ready before we can make a move. My idea of friendship could be described as mutual convenience… when it was not convenient, we should be able to separate for awhile. Not EVERYTHING must be done together.

Me: Kalau kau nak pergi kantin, kau pergilah kantin. Kenapa aku nak kena ikut? Aku nak pi library.

Friend: Nanti lepas pi kantin, kita pi la library. (she ‘pujuk’ me)

Me: Kau tak nak ikut pi library pun tak apa, aku tak suruh pun kau ikut. Kau pergi kantin, aku pi library. Nanti kau dah habis makan, kau datang la library. Atau kita jumpa balik kat kelas.

 

That was basically how I behaved when I was young. I didn’t feel I need to bend myself backward to change my habit in order to cultivate friendships because if problems in my life arise, I was sure I could handle it myself or my parents would handle them for me. Friendship was nice but I didn’t always need to do everything with them all the time. It did not occur to me that they might need me to do certain things with them and I should be kind whenever I could rather than thinking too much about expediency and efficiency. (Being kind…. being accommodative… those were new to me. And to be honest, I did not expect them to accommodate me – we can just do things separately –  and neither did I know that I should provide that to others when I had first joined communal living) I was like, if I can do things by myself when you guys don’t feel like doing it, why can’t you do the same thing too? Just do it by yourself if I don’t feel like doing those activities with you. More efficient, kan? Easier for everybody, isn’t it?

But when I was in the hostel of MRSM Langkawi, my friends and roommates were the ones who would help me with Add Maths, Physics and Chemistry (remember, we didn’t get to attend outside tuition as a hostel student). And some of them did not share my love of reading or writing and they were normally not someone I would feel any kind of friendship towards. But because I NEEDED them, I gradually learned how to mask my boredom, asked for their help, and sometimes I rendered my own service to them by correcting their English essays and improving their grammar.

Before I realized it, I had learned an important lesson. I shouldn’t have judged people so soon.

I. Shouldn’t. Have. Judged. People. So. Soon.

Some of these people who I would never be interested to be friends with just because they did not have similar interest as me, were actually really fun people to be around. All these while, I didn’t spend enough time to get to know people (because there were always other fun books I would rather be reading), and therefore before I could get to the point of appreciating their good qualities, I was already bored and I walked away thinking that it was too time-consuming to be their friends. Or I would think that the pros of this friendship did not outweigh the cons. But when the situation NECESSITATED me to tolerate them for awhile because I NEEDED their help, gradually I learned over time that “This girl is not that boring actually. She may not like to read. But she has other worthy quality that I could learn from. She is quite funny. How come I didn’t notice that before?”

So I compromised. “Kita pi Dewan Makan, lepas tu kita pi Library.” While having an outing, I compromised and agreed that we “go to Ismail Group for chocolate first, then we go to the book shop.” Slowly, I learned that efficiency and expediency were not the only thing I should focus on in my daily life. Sure it is more efficient to straightaway complete your task and not having to wait for others and not having to take their preferences into account. But when you are in trouble, you would have no friends to help you because you haven’t spent enough times with them for them to even bother that much about you. And that is a fatal mistake! There’s a reason why human beings are social creatures. (Look at how difficult it is for people to stay at home and NOT socialize in this current crisis of Covid-19 pandemic! We are social creatures!)Because our survival as a species depends on us having pro-social characteristics. Being sociable is a matter of survival in certain situations (but I was rarely, if ever, in a situation where being sociable is a matter of survival LOL. But yes, I had read stories and books on how knowing some important people in their lives had helped them out of a  tight situation)

(However, until now I am picky about my friendships. I cannot emphasize how important it is to have friends who are WORTHY of your compromise. I compromise my efficiency and expediency of doing things for you, because you are worth my effort. I could have gone to the library straightaway instead of waiting for you, but I wait because I know you are not comfortable eating alone. I value you that much because I know we have similar worldview, similar principles, and you are a kind-hearted person who I trust. But if you ever repeatedly do things that violate my ideals of what is right and wrong and then you do not listen to reasons and stop becoming worthy, I am no longer willing to compromise my efficiency and expediency for you.)

One of my friends had told me “If you had judged a song by its boring intro and stopped listening before getting to the beautiful chorus, you would not get an accurate impression of the ENTIRETY of the song.” (See? I have friends who talk this way. Who give me insight and correct my view and enrich my experience. This is what I mean by worthy friends.)

I didn’t understand it at first. But I get it now. You see, some people need small talk to feel at ease with other people at first. Some people need to be guided into a feeling of safety before they can feel comfortable revealing their true opinions to someone they have only just met. Everything has a beginning. A song has its intro and then a pre-chorus and then a chorus. Every story starts with an introduction to set the context, and then the story progresses to conflict, and then it reaches the exciting climax. If you are not patient with the introduction part, you will not be able to experience the exciting part.

It was my experience of living in a communal setting (first in MRSM Langkawi, and then in KMB, and subsequently having housemates while studying in Australia) that actually improved my disposition and my sociability. These days, I was always quite surprised when people described me as an extrovert. (Have I really improved that much? LOL.) They couldn’t be more wrong.  I agree that I am not a shy person and I have pretty strong opinions. But I am an introvert. No matter how much more sociable I am now, I will always need some portion of alone time at the end of the day. My weekends are for ME… to read and recharge. I will always prefer small groups over large groups. I will always be more serious than jovial. I will always prefer reading than attending kenduri. I will always take more time to warm up to people than most.

Or maybe…. I am an ambivert with a preference for solitary activities? I don’t know.

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I also attribute my improved sociability to my volunteer works throughout these years. I tolerated A LOT of small talks and boredom (during the initial ice-breaking period) because I know I could not do volunteer works alone. In doing volunteer works, you will always need other people’s help and cooperation. You have to meet members of other NGOs, you have to cooperate with leaders of the place you are volunteering in and whether you like it or not, you MUST talk to them. I look at small talk and being sociable as a SKILL SET that I need to master in order to do my work. Small talk is more tolerable now and not much of a problem these days. And trust me, anyone can do it when they practice enough!

Because we are a sum of our experience.

If we don’t seek out worthwhile experience, we will be stuck doing the same thing over and over again. There is nothing substantial to your existence. Your worries consist of every day mundane thing that do not give any special meaning to your life. When people like me meet you, we will regret spending the time tolerating your boring intro… only to find out later that even your chorus is a monotonous, dull torture.

So, when you have the chance to seek out new experience, volunteer yourself for it! Beautify your chorus! Inspire people around you!

But be warned; the side effects of having varied experience is that, you will find yourself having a higher standard of what constitutes a worthy chorus. Over time, you will be more picky with who your friends are and who you spend your time with.

Civilization & Volunteerism

One of the first signs of a civilized society is having its members being helpful to each other.

I could not demonstrate this point better than by asking you to read this insightful excerpt below, taken from an article written by Remy Blumenfeld.

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Years ago, the anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about clay pots, tools for hunting, grinding-stones, or religious artifacts.

But no. Mead said that the first evidence of civilization was a 15,000 years old fractured femur found in an archaeological site. A femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. This particular bone had been broken and had healed.

Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, you cannot drink or hunt for food. Wounded in this way, you are meat for your predators. No creature survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. You are eaten first.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that another person has taken time to stay with the fallen, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended them through recovery. A healed femur indicates that someone has helped a fellow human, rather than abandoning them to save their own life.

Isn’t that amazing? Helping fellow human being is the first sign of civilization!

So, volunteer and help your society! It is a marker of a civilized person.

Stay Home

And right now, it is very easy for everyone to do their part in helping their society. Sacrifice your freedom of movement for a while in favour of staying at home. That’s all it takes.

Let us, the health care workers, stay at work for you. All you have to do is stay at home to help reduce the spread of this Covid-19 pandemic.

stay at home

I understand that you might be bored at home. But this is a very ideal time for you to beautify your chorus! I have mentioned before that your chorus is made beautiful by your experience. But experience can also be gained indirectly by reading books that you would not have the time to read without this lockdown. Read inspiring stories! Read autobiography! Read fiction! Enrich your life experience by reading about things you never knew before. Or if you don’t like to read, watch documentaries! That works too!

If you are a parent, maybe this is a time to teach your children to master a particular school subject beyond his/her syllabus. When I was a child, my father would teach me the next year’s syllabus just to make it easy for me to master my subjects later. And it was really quite helpful.

My nephew, Eshan, who is only 9 years old is trained by my sister (a statistician and a lecturer) to do a mathematical task that I had only learned as a secondary school student. I am so proud of this little man. As my very first nephew, Eshan occupies a very special place in my heart. I have such a gooey soft spot for Eshan, right there at the centre of my chest. (Soppy, I know. LOL)

 

I think I am a very cool aunty to all my nephews and nieces. (Hahhah perasan! But this is proven by the fact that they love hanging out in my room so much whenever they ‘balik kampung’. No other rooms hold allure to them but mine. So, bersepah bilik aku diorang kerjakan. It spoke volume of my patience that I tolerated that from them, okay? Haha) I used to feel despair whenever they cried while I was baby-sitting them when they were around 1-2 years old. I would quickly give them back to my sisters whenever they wailed loudly. I didn’t enjoy being an aunty then because they couldn’t talk, they didn’t have any meaningful fun play and I was bored and wanted to continue my reading.

But as they grew up, I could relate with them better. We could play games; Eshan and Aayra are very good at scrabble, chess and card games and they love playing verbal fluency games with me (and sometimes they beat me too!) I could tell them stories. Or we could go out to the movies (Now that their mothers trust me more to take care of their kids LOL. But not more than one at a time LOL). But kids below the age of 4 years old just hate me even when we are blood related. My siblings told me it was because of my eyes. “Scary, garang, mencerlang.” (Of course I don’t believe them. There is nothing wrong with my eyes.)

So yeah parents out there…. I suggest that you play games with your children at home and engage their minds and their intellect. But if your kids are younger than 4 years old, I also have no idea how to engage with them. You have to come up with the idea yourself because I am hopeless with really young kids! Haha.

Books Of The Month

The first book I would like to talk about this month is written by a very famous thriller novelist by the name of Dean Koontz. I had read a few of his books over the years but I stopped for awhile because I told myself that I need to read more non-fiction to increase my general knowledge.

But his book by the title of The Eyes of Darkness was made famous for the past 2 months because it was said that Dean Koontz had predicted the occurrence of the Corona virus. And the book was written in the 80s!

Let me show you the “evidence” that has been circulating around to say that Dean Koontz had predicted this Covid-19 event.

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This has been circulating around in the internet!

So, you see, I was so curious and I wanted to read this book. But because I could not find it anywhere (it was, after all, published in 1981, more than 3 decades ago. I wasn’t even born yet!) so I then downloaded it from an online library that I was a member of.

I must say that I prefer Dean Koontz current style of writing compared to how he wrote decades ago. But I guess, every author must be allowed to gain experience and some polish before they can write excellently. Having said that, the plot was actually quite good.

The synopsis (spoiler alert!):

A young mother had been mourning the death of her son for the past 1 year. Her son passed away in an accident together with other kids in a camping trip. The mother was discouraged from seeing her son because she was told that her son’s body was very badly mangled, and therefore they had a closed-casket funeral. However, one year later, strange things started to occur around this young mother. She started to doubt her sanity and her own perception because of the poltergeist-like occurrences in her house.  She attributed these strange events to grief and lack of closure secondary to not looking at his son before he was buried. So the young mother requested for the body to be exhumed to help her get some closure. However, the moment when she requested for the exhumation of her son’s body, FBI/secret agents/ secret police started to hound her. She and her lawyer boyfriend (who also conveniently happened to be an ex-spy LOL) tried to get to the bottom of the mystery. They finally found out that her son was actually alive and was held at this lab as a test subject to study the effects of a virus originating from Wuhan. All those strange things that happened to this young mother was because her son had developed telekinetic and telepathic ability after being infected by the virus. Her son had been trying to send a message to her to rescue him from  this lab.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars (I was engaged enough. But I felt like his style of writing was not much to my liking compared to his later works.)

Would I recommend this book to my readers? Well, if you are curious enough to know whether Dean Koontz really did predict the arrival of Covid-19, you can read it too. I downloaded this book from an online library I was a member of. I don’t think you can find any new prints of the book nowadays. If you are interested to read this book, let me know, and I will give you the link to the website via email (I cannot publish the link here, LOL) 

So the question remains… had Dean Koontz REALLY predicted the arrival of this deadly corona virus? Haha. An article discussing this topic is already available in Google. So jangan malas, google it yourself 😛

the translator

The next book I had read in this month was a memoir written by Daoud Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman who had worked as a translator for various reporters who were covering the civil war and genocide in Darfur.

He had lived through a harrowing experience after being captured by the Sudanese Government in one of his translating mission with Paul Salopek, a renowned reporter who was on an assignment from National Geographic.

The whole story was basically about his Zaghawa background in Darfur, his various assignments as a translator and how he was finally captured by the Sudan government. Fortunately, while working as a translator, he had made a lot of useful friends, most of them are International reporters who knew powerful people. They helped releasing him from capture and he finally escaped to the US and wrote this memoir (See? This is an example of how cultivating good relationship with others is a matter of survival. Never experienced this kind of situation myself. Because I will always take precaution against needing someone for survival matters. But this kind of situation can certainly befall you. When you are in that tight spot, having a solid network of relationship is an absolute advantage.)

 I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. It was pretty average to me. I have read better memoirs of similar experience. I was not engaged enough throughout the reading. I think there was a lack of balance between facts and sentiments.

And this is the problem with writing memoirs. You cannot have too much facts, or the story becomes too dry. You cannot have too much sentiments, or else the context and the message would be overshadowed by too much emotion. You must have the amount just right. And I guess, this is the problem with this book. I need more sentiments to be there so that I can be more invested in the outcome of the story.

But by the end of the book, I wasn’t invested enough. I was simply glad to finish reading it so that I could move on to  the next interesting book.

Still, you guys might want to judge for yourself. How about reading other reviews about this book in Goodreads website before deciding whether this book is worth your money and time? Who knows, you might like reading this book!

Until next time, my dear readers. May Allah deliver us safely out of this Covid-19 catastrophe. #StaySafe #StayAtHome. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Happy New Year 2020: A New Year Rant!

Happy new year 2020 greeting card with fireworks
Wishing everyone a blessed year ahead.

Dear readers,

I hope it is not too late for me to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Truly, I have given up making any sort of New Year Resolutions because it has been made clear to me year after year that I truly do embody the true spirit of hangat-hangat tahi ayam. And therefore, I have given up on having yearly goals or resolutions.

I only have short-term agendas… daily agenda, weekly agenda, monthly agenda and so on and so forth.  And my resolution is to cross off the list of my agendas and just get things done within the time I have stipulated for myself.

And that is why I am particular about time. Because I have daily goals to achieve. Even if the goal is as simple as to finish my latest fiction, or to finish reading the latest journal article suggested by the Royal College or just to finish writing an article for my blog (Remember that I have a monthly agenda of one blog post per month. And included in that agenda is to finish at least 2-3 books per month so that I could write about them in my blog post in the section of Book Of The Month at the end of each blog post.)

So yearly resolution doesn’t do much good for me. Never have I ever lost the weight I wanted to lose at the beginning of the year LOL.  Instead I have my “let’s try to jog and sweat more today” days and my “I just want to eat Secret Recipe cakes and Baskin Robbins ice cream” days. These two types of days are of equal importance to me. Because… it’s about balance, guys… right?

Never have I ever been a good, obedient daughter for the whole year. But instead I have my good daughter “I am a blessing to my parents” days and my bad daughter “Poor my parents, I am giving them the worst kind of headache” days. LOL.

Never have I ever been a good, sociable friend who is always available for everyone all year round and will attend all kenduri invitations and get-together events. Instead I have my “let’s try to socialize more today” days and my “I really just want to be at home and read and do my own thing” days.

Never have I ever for the whole year been diplomatic and soft spoken always. But I have my “I can be patient about this for a little while and will try to respect your authority even though I think you are making a wrong decision” mood and my “I absolutely cannot tolerate this and will argue till kingdom come if you don’t withdraw your faulty decision no matter who you are in your position” mood. (In general, this involves people doing something unacceptable that I think violates my sense of justice, fair treatment and good conduct. I cannot be patient about that. But I have learned to pick and choose my battle these days. Because… priority, guys!)

So I find that daily renewal of good intention works better for me. Because I am human. I am not infallible. I forget my intention. I forget my purpose sometimes. And I am thankful that I am surrounded by people who can metaphorically whack my head when I am being a pain in the proverbial backside.

You see, I choose my friends carefully. I have inspiring friends all around me. I have friends who have such a similar view with me that she will fight side by side with me or support me if I choose to pick up a battle. I have friends who teach me to be patient and diplomatic when I am so upset I forget to hold my tongue. I have friends with whom I can talk for hours about anything heavy or light-hearted that we are insensible to the passing of the time. I have friends who are so strong that they can face trials in life multiple times and they can still get up from their falls, forge ahead and able to make it in the end. I have friends who enjoy adventurous stuff so that we can travel to earthquake-ridden places and do meaningful volunteer works when we feel like it. I have friends who share similar worldview with me that we will marvel for hours over a cup of coffee on why most people don’t think the way we do. LOL.

In short, I have inspiring friends whom I can learn from and I can emulate.

I do not place myself in a position of having friends with negative attitude and negative mindset. If I sense from the very beginning that you will weigh me down with all your “unprincipled, pemalas, kerja cincai, tak tepati masa, kaki bodek, negative about others all the time,” I will still treat you with distant politeness but you do not fit into my inner circle.

I truly hold on to this hadeeth below:

The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said:

“A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Hadith 314)

As a doctor, our clinical practice is based on evidence-based guidelines. As a Muslim, our whole life has been guided by the Quran and the Hadeeth  though I am not perfect (FAR from perfect) in following all of them. But when it comes to choosing friends and my close companions, I do follow this hadeeth strictly. Because I believe that the impact of friends on you is significant. At the end of the day, you must have enough strength of character to walk away from bad friends because otherwise, they will affect you little by little and before you realize it, you have changed.

It is true that good people around you can influence your behaviours. I credit my much improved patience now to my calm, amiable, friendly friends that I met in Australia. If God had left me to my own devices, I think I would not be able to moderate my temperament and would still be that tiresome argumentative child who just wants to win and have the last word (even though one can argue that I still retain that tiresome traits until now LOL. But in my own defense, I really did believe that I was right when I was being argumentative. If you do not have the oratory skills to convince me, how would I know that I was wrong?) Their calm, logical, kind understanding in answering all my questions… I had never met someone like them before I went to Australia. I don’t think I have ever told them about how much they have impacted my worldview about life and about religion… maybe if they still read my blog, at least they will know.

There are still so much room for improvement in me… but really, this is a much better version of me. This is Afiza version 3.0 ha ha ha.

A review of 2019 & The Beginning of A Rant (LOL)

2019 had been full of ups and downs. But I managed to complete my MRCPsych exam in 2019. So that was something major in 2019 for me to be thankful for and to be jovial about. That was the goal I had successfully achieved last year, Alhamdulillah. #AchievementUnlocked #MoveOnToTheNextLevel

But what’s next?

 

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I received an offer from Athona recruitment centre in the UK to become a psychiatrist there around 2 weeks after passing my exam. At first, I ignored the email from the recruitment centre because I didn’t think I wanted to work in the UK. My whole family is in Malaysia and I wanted to remain in Malaysia. But later, when the social media was abuzz with the news that critical allowance for newly appointed doctors would be abolished, I found myself staring at the email from the recruitment centre again. I found myself evaluating the idea of moving to the UK and continue working there.

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Solidarity for junior doctors!

I was wondering whether I should really give up on Malaysia.

I have experienced a lot of…. well, dissatisfaction… about a lot of things. I am wondering if I could be a better doctor somewhere else, if I could do more somewhere else…where the system is superior, the allied health workers are enough and functioning, and the admin is reasonable when you lodge a complaint against any staff who does not treat your patient professionally.  Truthfully… there are times when I am tired of working in Malaysia. It’s not about the money. It’s never about the money because I am relatively financially free with no responsibility to anyone other than myself, Alhamdulillah. When I say I am financially free, I am not saying that I am rich… because I am not, LOL. But then, I don’t need to be rich. I am content. My freedom is my greatest treasure ever. I can speak up and challenge authority if I am so inclined because I know that should anyone try to oppress me unfairly, I can fight them back. If I lose the fight, I can afford to tender my resignation (after first creating a lot of havoc and probably dragging that person to court. LOL. But most people do not push me  that far.) This is the reason I choose MRCPsych. I have more options in where I can work if I have had enough of Malaysian bureaucracy. And the freedom that comes with a world-recognized qualification is a bliss.

Alhamdulillah, thank God that He had placed me in a job I love. Going to work is not even a job for me…. but a vocation. If I ever decide to leave KKM and go to the UK, it will not be about the money.

It will be about having to be under the thumb of foolish people in the admin side who discriminate the psychiatry field in the way that they deal with problematic staffs. Sometimes these admin people let dysfunctional staffs with criminal-like behaviour to continue working in psychiatry when the same kind of behavior in another department would not have been tolerated and would have caused them to be transferred out from that department pronto. (And these rejected staffs from other departments got transferred to PSY Department most of the times! And then this kind of staffs continue to create havoc in PSY department but when we complain about them, the admin people will not bother transferring them out from PSY department. The double standard is abominable!)

It’s also about dealing with rigid, bureaucratic red tape set by KKM admin who sit around making decisions about us without discussing their (unfair) decisions with us first. It’s also about the increasing pressure of being oppressed in which the burden of work is increasing (has there ever been a time when doctors’ burden of work is decreasing?) but the privileges and the allowances are abolished (or are being discussed and debated for abolishment). They have revoked their decision to abolish critical allowance for now, but who knows what else they would try to take away from us in the future?

On a larger scale of disenchantment, Pakatan Harapan proves to be disappointing to most of us who had worked really hard as a PACA in the last GE14. There are so many issues that have made us wonder on whether or not we should vote for BN in the next GE. Despite thinking this way, I never regret choosing Pakatan Harapan in GE14. The message we sent to the politicians was crystal clear. You cannot take for granted the loyalty of our votes if you do a poor job of governing the country. BN got the message already in the last GE14.

Maybe PH needs the same message as well during the next GE. Hmm? Maybe for the next GE, I will be a PACA for BN pula? LOL. My maternal aunty (whose house has been a BN Bilik Gerakan in Sedaka for decades) will be pleased about that, I am sure. She was so upset at my parents, myself and my siblings when we voted against BN during the last GE.

Let us be demanding of our government to deliver high quality governance. We can keep on switching our votes between various different parties till the end of days if we have to. That’s why I am not a member of any political party. I choose who to support based on issues. Not because I am a member of any political organization. I wish to stay objective and unbiased. I don’t believe in misplaced loyalty and unconditional love to any person or organization. My love and loyalty will always be conditional upon you being a good and worthy person. Because I don’t like to waste my time and my resources. (My INTJ traits could not have borne it! We loathe inefficiency in anything or anyone).

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The same reason : The craps that they accumulate if they are not changed often.

Ex-Education Minister

A lot of people in my Facebook newsfeed had expressed sadness and dissatisfaction about Dr.Maszlee having to resign from his post as Education Minister. I didn’t express any feeling whatsoever about this because I believe that if he is really good, he will make a comeback. In fact, he will come back stronger and wiser if he learned from this experience. Even Tun M was expelled from UMNO once upon a time because he was too loud in his criticism against Tun Abdul Rahman, remember? And yet he is our PM twice over. Sometimes, things happened so that you can internalize the lessons that you would not have learned, otherwise. He has a lot of loyal supporters. Insya Allah, he will make a comeback.

I do believe that Maszlee is a good person but I did not always agree with all his statements and actions. When most people in my Facebook newsfeed were shocked about Dr. Maszlee having to resign from his post as Education Minister, I was not all that surprised by the news. I had predicted it in my previous blog post.

Below is the snippet of my previous blog post by the title of ‘Truly Non-Partisan’ :

Nowadays, Dr. Maszlee has received criticism right, left and centre! He has nothing to lose if he just says “We will abolish vernacular schools. The standard 1 batch who first enters the new education system will no longer be subjected to any quota system when they are applying for matriculation, 10-11 years from now. We hope to promote unity between races by abolishing vernacular schools as well abolishing quotas between races.” 

But what did he do instead? He said  something to the effect of “Quota should be there because even job openings are discriminatory. Private companies only hire mandarin-speaking candidates.” Gosh! Is he saying that one act of discrimination justifies the use of another act of discrimination?! “Oh sebab hangpa discriminate kami dalam pekerjaan, so kami discriminate korang dengan quota lah.” OMG…. no wise politician will say something like that!

Politicians should have basic debating skills, in my opinion.  Rather than comparing quota with job discrimination, you should compare quota with vernacular schools…. because the existence of quota is part of Hak Bumiputera. And if Bumiputera have to sacrifice their rights, then the non-bumiputera must also sacrifice their vernacular schools. Barulah comparable kat situ, faham tak? Barulah kau tak kena bash! Dan kalau kau kena bash pun, at least it will be for a WORTHY statement and a WORTHY move!

If  you are interested, you can read the whole article in the post ‘Truly Non-Partisan’. But basically, I had written about how unsatisfied I was that he did not put his foot down and be firm about abolishing vernacular schools. How he was seen to be focusing on frivolous issues. It’s good that he is concerned about Pendidikan Untuk Semua especially concerning OKU kids… but get it done in a single-stream school. It’s good that he upgraded schools in the rural area and all… that can happen while prioritizing single-stream school too. It’s good that he is concerned about ‘beban kerja guru’…. again beban kerja guru could be dealt with while also making the bigger and more important change of having a single stream school.

Tackle the most important priority, first! The problem in Malaysia is racial disunity secondary to childhood racial segregation in schools! At least, even if you ended up making so many enemies that you had to step down, it would have been for a worthy cause. But now even without touching vernacular schools… he still had to step down anyway. What a shame.

Leadership is not about trying to please everyone (but ended up making every faction hates you anyway because of your lack of firmness). It is about doing the right thing, even if you please no one. When you do the right thing, even if you get a backlash from it, at least you will be satisfied and content. But when you try to compromise and please everyone, sometimes the strategy will backfire on you and at the same time you don’t even get the satisfaction of having done the right thing. For example:

  • Go ahead and be firm about learning Jawi in schools. Even if you had to displease the Chinese and the Indians, insist on learning Jawi because it has been decided. Tapi tiba-tiba daripada 6 muka surat jawi… tinggal 3 muka surat. Because you want to compromise and please everyone. But what happened instead? The Malays are very displeased because it was supposed to be 6 pages. And the Chinese/Indians are still displeased because they don’t even want to learn 3 pages of jawi! What did you get? None of the races are happy with you! At least if you had stick to your gun and insist that we are sticking to 6 pages of Jawi…. because you believe that this is the right thing to do (otherwise why would you have made that decision in the first place)… you will still please the Malays. But when you reduced the learning of Jawi to 3 pages, hoping to appease other races (but at the same time trying to comfort the Malays that Jawi will still be taught albeit with a reduced number of pages), every race is angry at you! Nampak tak how being Mr. Nice Guy to EVERYONE will backfire on us! Just do what you believe as right. Because when you do what you believe as right, that intention of yours please God. Don’t try to please others because there are so many of them who have their own conflict of interests that you can never please everyone. There’s a lot of freedom in knowing that you don’t have to please anyone else other than God. Try it sometime, okay? You might get so addicted to that freedom, you will never go back to being a Mr-Nice-Guy-To-Everyone again. #Leadership101
  • Go ahead and defend tanglung at schools because CNY is a cultural celebration and not a religious one. Defend tanglung even if you had to displease the Malays. (Tapi yang ni, pandai pula PH Government defend bagai nak rak. Isu jawi pula diorang macam tak ada spine!)

 

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When it comes to Jawi, you said PIBG’s decision was the reason not to implement it. How about Tanglung? It was the PIBG who decided to get rid of the tanglung! This is a rather obvious inconsistent reasoning!
  • You want to enforce the rule of no smoking in public premises to please the non-smoking public. But then you ambivalently flip flop and decided to allow a smoking area in the restaurants to cater to smokers. Seriously… whaaatt??

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Create a pattern of leadership that is so fair and so firm in its fairness no matter who is displeased, that you inspire respect in your leadership.

And I am not saying this only about Dr. Maszlee. But the whole laughable PH government is an epitome of spinelessness. I think the young generation is getting very disillusioned about this country. Part of me feel like I should have stayed in Australia when I had the chance.

I am a very patriotic person. But when the fate of our country lies in politicians whose honour is questionable at best, the inclination to pack up and get out is very strong.

Why do I say their honour is questionable?

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Well…if I were a politician, I certainly would not have hired political aides who are involved in drug parties. (Remember the hadeeth?) And I certainly would not want someone who commit adultery/sodomy to be among my trusted circle and working with me in developing my political career. In order for me to work with you, I need to know that I can trust and respect your integrity. I make it compulsory that if I am going to have to deal with you day in and day out, you better buck up and deserve my friendship and the trust that comes with it. I don’t want to waste my time having to deal with the complication of your dubious character. Time should be spent focusing on things that matter. Not dealing with bad behavior of undeserving people in your life that makes your life difficult to the point that you spend the bulk of your time settling headache-inducing personal issues, when you could have spent your time doing important things that would make a difference; things that would give you a reward in this life and the hereafter.

When it comes to dealing with my subordinates, I don’t go around checking the whereabouts of my HOs or my staffs every single minute of their working hours. I have better stuff to do with my time. But I want things to be done within the stipulated time that we had discussed. I will check and follow up on what I had asked them to do. I want them to show results without me having to micro-manage their time. You can keluar ambil anak from school or do whatever you have to do as long as you deliver progress and good results in your work. Tapi kalau kau pemalas, kau tak berdisiplin, kau suka buat pesakit atau kau tak buat kerja sampai pesakit under your care banyak relapse…. You should be sacked out of your department! Don’t demotivate other staffs around you who had to put up with your behavior.

As a leader, they must start learning the concept of Pygmalion effect. People deliver something better, because YOU expect something better! People will try to meet your standard because you expect it from them and will not put up with anything less.

As simple as that.

So why did you expect low?

 

***

The Worrying Global Trend Of Religious & Racial Persecution

Things that are happening to Uyghurs in China and to Muslims in India and Kashmir…. they are very disheartening.

In our own country, racial issues are fired up constantly and consistently.

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Modi’s government wants India’s Muslims to prove their Indianness because their faith renders it suspect.  Seriously!

Some of fellow Malaysians of Indian race had dared to question Tun M’s stand to continue to criticize India, because now India had retaliated by not buying our palm oil. And some of these ‘Malaysians’ who are still LOYAL to India are saying things like “Take care of the economy of your own country first and guard your mouth, Tun M.”

Wow…. their priority is certainly skewed.

So, I then wrote this Facebook status. I hope my message is clear. Jangan main dengan api just because the majority is silent. I am certainly not the silent type when I have had enough.

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One of my friends were saying to me, “Aku tak berani nak tulis some of the Facebook status that you had written even though I agree with you. Facebook aku ada kawan-kawan India, Cina…. aku takut depa offended.”

I have said it before. I say the truth even if people don’t like it. I am not responsible for your hurt feelings. I certainly do have Chinese and Indian friends in my Facebook as well as in real life and in our day-to-day life, we get along well and respect each other!

But this is political! Everybody will have their own political opinion which may be influenced by their race or their religion.

But regardless of which race or religion you are, justice is a universal concept! Regardless of which race or religion you are, FACTS are facts!

Below are the facts!

In China, the main culture/religion is Buddhism, and they speak Chinese languages (Mandarin/Cantonese/Hokkien etc), and the Chinese students take exams based on the syllabus in their own country which has been tailored to suit the Chinese values, Chinese culture and Chinese philosophy. Can a Muslim whose Malaysian ancestors had migrated to China demand that the Chinese Government recognize her SPM qualification (based on the Malaysian syllabus) so that she could enter universities in China? How is that fair to other citizens who took different kind of exams? #SayNoToUEC

Likewise, in India, the main culture/religion/language is not Islam or Arabic…. it is Hindu as the religion of the majority and Hindi language is the official language. Can a Muslim whose ancestors had migrated from Saudi Arabia demand that the India Government recognize her exam qualification based on Saudi Arabia’s syllabus in order for her to enter Indian Universities?

In Europe, the Western values is the dominant culture and Christian is the main religion. Before going to study in Australia, I took International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification before I can enter Newcastle University! Should I have demanded that they recognize my SPM, instead? I could sure try, if I wanted to be a barrel of laughs!

In the Middle East, the main culture is Arabic and the language is Arabic. I am sure they too have their own system!

In EVERY region and EVERY country, there is one dominant culture and one dominant religion and one official/dominant language. This is the country’s identity! Every country has ONE dominant identity which is usually influenced by the culture and religion of the majority! #FactsOfLifeInThisWorld  Please get this into your head!

In Malaysia, that dominant identity and that dominant culture is the Malay culture and the official religion in this country is Islam… but we didn’t stop you from practicing your own culture and religion! But respect to the dominant culture and the dominant religion must be there! You do not get to demand EQUALITY of all religions and cultures in Malaysia. Just like other minorities in other countries also cannot (and DID NOT!!) demand EQUAL recognition of their own cultures and religious practices in that country. As long as they can practice their religion and culture without disturbance, they do not demand that everything about their culture and religion is treated equally with the dominant culture/religion. In fact, they assimilated! Some of the Chinese and Indians in Australia could not even speak their mother tongues, and they have Western values and they adopt the Western culture.

Sure, Barack Obama who is a black American had been the US President for two terms. But don’t try to compare that situation with Malaysia by saying stupid things out of context such as “Malaysia is so backward… in the US,  they already have a Black president. Kat Malaysia, kenapa orang Cina/India tak boleh jadi PM? So racist!”

Hang on, guys! Barack Obama didn’t speak Swahili… he speaks perfect English. And his culture and religion are Western and Christian. He has assimilated! THAT is the difference!

He is so assimilated that people were not worried that someone like him was going to be the President of a white-majority country… because they were very confident that it wouldn’t affect their way of life in any way, shape or form. But can you imagine if Barack Obama speaks hesitant English, and more fluent in Arabic than in English, and is a practicing Muslim rather than a practicing Christian, whose values are Eastern rather than Western…. would he have been the US President? Think about it! Be fair in your judgment!

So if you want to be a Malaysian PM, come and join us and assimilate with us… starting from learning with us in a similar environment at schools during childhood. Tapi kalau itu pun kau tak boleh buat, tiba-tiba nak demand jadi PM Malaysia? Are you out of your mind? Who would vote for you to be Malaysian PM in a Malay-mojority country? This is not about being racist. This is about understanding facts and contexts! In Australia, MOST members of parliament are WHITE…. hardly any Asians or Muslims or Indians can be an MP despite them having assimilated completely with the Australian culture. Most of them don’t speak their own mother tongues and hardly know anything about being Asian or being Indian. And yet, they are much less represented!

Compare that situation to Malaysia where there are SO MUCH MORE Indians and Chinese who are MPs.  I and many Malays certainly would vote for a PM who is a Chinese Muslim like Brother Firdaus Wong. I am sure a lot of Malays would vote for an Indian Muslim like Brother Shah Kirit to be a PM… because we feel like they have assimilated perfectly with the culture of the majority! They would not suddenly question Islamic practices or the fact that Islam is the official religion of the country. Sebab tulah Barack Obama boleh jadi presiden US…. because he assimilated! #PoliticalScience101 Kalau benda simple macam ni kau tak boleh grasp (or maybe it is actually too complicated for you?), how can you have the maturity to be a PM?

Below is  an introduction to the wit of Brother Wong, to those who have never known him.

When you go to the Western countries, pandai pula kau tak demand vernacular schools kat sana. There are so many Indians/Chinese living in the UK or the US…. but why does no one demand for the UK or the US government to recognize their syllabus based on their country of ethnic origin? Why do you dare to insist on your vernacular schools when you are in Malaysia but not when you are in the Western countries? Perhaps minorities in the Western countries are more reasonable and they know not to cross boundaries. They know their place, their rights and their limitations. So, I reiterate #SayNoToUEC

Nak dapat cuti CNY/Deepavali… jangan haraplah kalau kat Australia! During Eid day pun aku pergi lecture hall ok! Nak bina kuil, rampas tanah orang suka-suka hati kat Western countries, kau berani ke? Kau ingat negara tak ada undang-undang??

If I ever decide to migrate to the UK, I would NEVER behave like some of the minority extremists here in Malaysia. Because in Islam, we are taught #FiqhMinoriti (Fiqh Al-Alqalliyyat or Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities). Did you know that in Syariah Law, Muslims minority must follow the law of the land they reside in? Otherwise, we have the options to berhijrah. Simple kan? We will still do the actions required in our 5 pillars of Islam (rukun Islam; namely shahada, praying, zakat, fasting, hajj pilgrimage) but we are not asked to change the law of the land to be in accordance to Islam.

But when we are in a Muslim-majority country, we are obliged to uphold the Islamic Law without trampling on the rights of the minority. And Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country!

“Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat”—the jurisprudence of Muslim minorities—is a legal doctrine introduced in the 1990s by Taha Jabir Al-Alwani and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi which asserts that Muslim minorities, especially those residing in the West, deserve a special new legal discipline to address their unique religious needs that differ from those of Muslims residing in Islamic countries.

According to Taha, “While Muslims in Muslim Countries are obliged to uphold the Islamic Law of their state, Muslim minorities in the United States are not required either by the Islamic Law or rationality to uphold Islamic symbols of faith in a secular state, except to the extent permissible within that state.”

But there will be extremists in any religion and any race. We certainly do get Muslim extremists in  the West too. And in Malaysia… there are minority extremists who are being given a wide publicity by the local media. My question is, what are you playing at? Are you trying to burn the country to the ground with racism and racial hatred?

So, if you are wondering why I can write controversial stuff in my Facebook my answer is…. “Kenapa kita kena senyap bila ada orang lain tengah propagate for falsehood, wanting something beyond their rights? Kenapa diorang boleh cakap lepas dan mulut capoi macam dengan apa dan post kat Facebook benda yang salah? Tapi kita tak boleh propagate benda yang betul? Kau boleh terima ke bila ada Malaysian biadap yang cakap jangan menyibuk soal India… jangan sibuk speak up bila Indian Government discriminate orang Muslim kat sana just because our palm oil will be boycotted? Economy first, before humanity and justice…. is that it? Religious persecution is okay ke… as long as our palm oil can be sold to India? I cannot accept that. So kalau orang boleh berani tulis benda yang salah, kenapa aku  tak boleh tulis benda yang betul!”

I posted what I believe as right! That’s my answer to why I don’t care whose feelings are hurt by what I write.

If you are hurt by the truth, you are the problem. Not me.

***

Book Of The Month

In the month of December, I had finished 5 books; 3 fictions and 2 non-fictions. But I would like to write only  about the non-fiction ones because I think these two books are quite beneficial to be read by my readers.

Some of my patients had asked me about what books should they read that would motivate them. And usually, I would be at a loss to recommend one for them. You see, the truth is, I do not set out to motivate myself by reading motivational books. I find that they are too contrived and they are trying too hard to motivate us in an unnatural way to the point that they sound unrealistic. I read fictions…. on justice, on quests, on hardship and difficulties… in which the hero would win in the end after facing so many trials and tribulations. To me, THAT is motivating.

So I don’t read books like ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’… Or books like ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ or ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’. I mean… I guess, they are alright but they are not my cup of tea. I was never able to finish them and have given up buying them.Those kind of books are too… instructive, for me. Too contrived. Like I have to follow a manual instead of leading my life naturally. LOL.

So, I didn’t know what to recommend my patients if they asked me for that kind of books because I don’t read them, in general.

But one day I came across an instagram page of Mizi Wahid and I kind of like the things he posted. Later I found out that he had authored a book by the title of The Art Of Letting God. I bought this book in Senai Airport at the price of  RM50, and for  a 147-pages hard-cover book, I must say it was a great purchase.

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This book is for Muslims who are looking for inspiration, motivation and the strength to let go of their past hurt and regrets. And it is the Muslim version of evidence-based practice (i.e, dalil-based) for letting go and letting God. I certainly enjoyed reading it and I finished them in 2-3 days. It does intrigue my mind and challenge my thoughts in certain things and that is quite rare to happen for me these days. For example in Chapter 9 “Leave Your Enemies To Him”… hahha…. I had a long thought about that. Because my core belief is Justice.

Let me quote some of the sentences in this Chapter:

In Islam, the choice to avenge a wrongdoing is a valid one. It is an option as long as the “retaliation” is equal or less than what was done to you. But there are other options too. And they are: the choice to be compensated and the choice to forgive the wrongdoer.

I will never be able to talk about forgiveness until you first acknowledge that avenging a wrongndoing is also a valid course of action! Most motivational books would jump straight to “Forgiveness of Others” as though the wish to be avenged is unnatural. But Mizi Wahid took a balanced approach. He had rightly stated that being compensated and being avenged is also a valid option. It does celebrate our natural human nature of seeking justice. And only AFTER talking about justice, he talked about forgiveness. That is very good…. very palatable to someone like me.

Don’t you just HATE it when some ‘budget bagus’ preacher talk about forgiveness without talking about justice? So impractical and so devoid of any understanding of human nature! Padahal dia sendiri pun mulut boleh tahan and taklah automatically forgive orang. Ha ha.

I like something real, genuine and practical. Don’t sound pretentiously religious when actually the reality is different. I tend to question your intention if I don’t trust your holier-than-thou tone.

So I do recommend my readers to read this book by Mizi Wahid, The Art Of Letting God. I think this is one of the motivational books that are less pretentious compared to many others out there. And like I said, it is dalil-based (evidence-based).

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The next book I would like to talk about is Labyrinths by Catrine Clay. I bought this book in Alor Star during the Big Bad Wolf book sale last October. The reason I bought this book was because it is related to my career in psychiatry.

This is about Carl Gustav Jung and his marriage to Emma Jung and the early days of psychoanalysis. Even Sigmund Freud made an appearance in this book and he was like a father-figure to Carl Jung…until finally Carl Jung departed from Freud due to their disagreement about one aspect of psychoanalysis… namely the psychosexual part of psychoanalysis.

After reading this book, I had a clearer idea on how psychoanalysis was practiced in the early days and frankly, I am not impressed by how very unscientific their methods were.

Below is a table outlining the differences between Carl Jung’s assumptions and Freud’s assumptions (Nama pun assumptions, ok!)

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I find this book is particularly illuminating when it comes to personal anecdotes of Carl Jung’s life and childhood (he was sexually abused). There were some questions on whether or not he might have suffered from Bipolar?

It was interesting to know about the ménage à trois between Carl Jung, Emma Jung and Toni Wolff. I felt so sorry for Emma Jung about that.

In this biography, Carl Jung was depicted to have had multiple romantic relationships with his patients. For someone who should know better about transference, he certainly didn’t give a damn. There had been times when he continued to encourage romantic feelings in his patients.

I find that at the end of the book, I could not respect Carl Jung as a person. Maybe as a psychiatrist he deserved some recognition and respect. But on the whole, I find that he is not up to the ethical standard that should be expected from a psychiatrist. I wonder if the ethic governing doctors back then was much different than now.

But do I recommend this book to my readers? Well, I recommend psychiatrists and psychiatry MOs and psychologists to read this book. But I don’t recommend it to the general public.  Because you guys might have a wrong idea about psychiatry when you read the unscientific nature of dream analysis and psychoanalysis based on free-association.  Adeh!

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

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The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale & The Legendary Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali Book
The biography of Muhammad Ali, written by Alan Goldstein

#BookReview  #GudjonssonScale  #MuhammadAli

Dear readers,

Last month, I had read  a biography of The Legendary Muhammad Ali written by Alan Goldstein and Masya-Allah, I was blown away. It was a truly absorbing read and I finished reading the book in 3 days. Muhammad Ali’s life was nothing short of inspiring.

I knew that Muhammad Ali was this great boxing legend who “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee” but in my opinion, his greatest achievement was not made in the boxing ring. There was no specific arena… no particular moment while fighting in  the ring… in which I could say “Yup, that’s it! That’s when he was at his best.”

It was just the way he led his life… the way he stayed true to what he believed regardless of what other people said about him. The way he had stuck to his gun regardless of the risks of losing his money and  fame, and even regardless of going to prison. That was some heavy-duty powerful faith there! How many people would rather be in prison rather than sacrificing their principles? These days, I assure you, not many!

float and sting

When people persecuted him for his staunch principles, he stood firm and fought back with witty words that spoke volume of his wisdom. I didn’t know before what was the big deal with Muhammad Ali. I only knew him as this great boxer who also happened to be a Muslim. To me, ah… ok fine, just another famous Muslim celebrity.(What can I say? I was never into boxing and Muhammad Ali was famous way before my time. Now, I am acutely embarrassed of my previous ignorance of this legendary persona!)

But after reading his biography, I was in awe.

I remember, whilst reading the book, that Muhammad Ali would have no problem with the Gudjonsson Scale if the test was administered to him. He would stick to his gun and to hell with what other people say to the contrary.

Want to know what I mean? Read on!

***

So what is the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale?  Well, this is not a very well-known test in psychiatry. When they are used, they are usually used in the forensic setting. It has been used in court cases in several jurisdictions but has been the subject of various criticisms.

I am not sure whether this scale was ever used in Malaysia. I certainly never came across it when I was doing my forensic posting.

But I had to study this scale when I was doing my Part A MRCPsych exam. I remember feeling slightly troubled when I thought of how my performance would be if the scale were administered to me.

According to Wikipedia, this scale was created in 1983 by Icelandic psychologist Gísli Hannes Guðjónsson. The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale consists of reading a story aloud to participants, who are then asked to recall as much as they can remember. Subsequently, participants are probed with 20 questions pertaining to the story, 15 of which are misleading. When the 20 questions have been answered, the participants are clearly and firmly given a negative feedback on their performance. Specifically, they are told that they have made a number of errors and that it is therefore necessary to repeat the questions to obtain more accurate answers. On the basis of participants answers to the misleading items, a total suggestibility score can be calculated.

I remember thinking, would I ever change my mind, even as I know that I was right, if the pressure towards me was administered just hard enough? Would I break? Or Would I bend? Would I stand straight or would I fall in heaps and pieces?

Imagine someone administering the Gudjonnsson Suggestibility Scale to you.

Let me walk you through the simplified version of the scenario (you can read the actual details on how the scale is administered in Wikipedia)

So an examiner reads you a story and after hearing the story to its conclusion, you are initially reasonably sure that you have understood the story correctly. The examiner then proceeds with asking you a few questions to test your comprehension. You are confident with all the answers you have given the first time. Then, the examiner asks you some of the questions again and again… the examiner acts as though he thinks your answers are not quite correct…. so….would you slightly alter your answers to accommodate the expectation of the examiner? If the examiner asks you repeatedly “Are you sure that was how the story goes? Are you sure? Is that REALLY what happened? Could you perhaps be mistaken?Is that REALLY how you understood the story?”…. would you then doubt yourself?

Or would you stick to your gun and say “I know what I heard. That’s how I understood the story. I could be wrong. But that was what I heard and what I understood. And I am not going to change my answers no matter how many times you question me. Period!”

Seriously, in my own experience, MOST people would accommodate expectations (subtle or non-subtle) regardless of how wrong the expectations might be or how right their answers initially were.

Heck, it happens to our politicians all the time. It takes someone with strong conviction like Tun M to oust Najib out of his political throne because everyone else around him were as fickle as the weather when it comes to speaking up for the truth and fighting for justice.

It happened to me when I was a junior doctor. It happened to many other of my colleagues. It happened to even specialists and consultants when they were dealing with their own superiors.

It happens in our ward rounds and teaching sessions ALL THE TIME. For example, you might KNOW that you have given the right answer to your specialist’s question…. but when your specialist tests you by deliberately questioning your answer (or maybe the specialist himself also did not know that you were actually correct), you would change your answer to accommodate the expectation of your specialist. And even if you don’t change your answer, you will still start to doubt yourself even as you give the same answer… but this time, your answer comes in a less convincing manner.

One of my close friends had answered correctly regarding what are the anti-depressants licensed for OCD. She rattled off “Escitalopram, Fluoxetine, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, Sertraline.” Her answer was correct and spot on! Of course she must have read it before doing her presentation and she should have been confident with her answer. But someone in the audience had questioned, “Are you sure Sertraline was licensed for OCD. I am not sure… but I think, Sertraline is not licensed for OCD, right?” And EVERYONE fell silent regardless of whether they are HOs, MOs, specialists or consultants. Maybe everyone was also not sure at that time and it was too easy to assume that someone who was brave enough to question the presenter must have been correct. 

But me and Dr. T…. we have this curiosity that is not easily satisfied. We used to read that Sertraline is licensed for OCD. Our Part A MRCPsych notes had a list of all meds and their licensed indication. And we kind of vaguely remembered that Sertraline is licensed for OCD but we were also not very sure when someone had questioned our friend’s answer.

By the time, me and Dr. T had finished extracting the information from the pdf version of Maudsley Guidelines and had confirmed that my friend’s list of answers were correct, the audience had moved on to a new topic of discussion.  And me and Dr. T didn’t feel like it was appropriate to point out to everyone that my friend’s answer was correct and the person who had questioned her was the one who was mistaken. I mean, people make mistakes and if we can let it go, we will let it go. But rest assured, if the CME gathering was still talking about the same topic, I would have offered the correct information for the benefit of everyone in the audience. My close friend deserves to have the credit of having given the correct answer. It is only fair for her to receive that recognition, in my opinion.

After my friend had finished her presentation, I went to her and said, “Mesti kau dah prepare sebelum present. Kau tahu kan jawapan kau betul. Just be firm and stick to your answers. Lepas ni, tak kisah siapa yang tanya…. specialist ke, consultant ke…. if we know what we know…. we stick to it!” (Bab mengajar orang suruh rebel, memang boleh bagi kat aku. Hahha)

She told me “Aku baca sekali lalu saja… takut aku tersalah.” This friend of mine is the nicest, the most humble and the least aggressive among my close circle. She is the angel to my devil. Hahha. So, I know she would willingly accept the appearance of being mistaken even when she was right. I am her exact opposite. And I think, Dr. T is also like me. When we believe we are right, we are going to question you regarding what made you question our facts in the first place? (As in, how dare you question me when you yourself are not sure! Now, face our wrath! Hahaha. Okay, just kidding.)

Look, it can happen to anyone. When an ‘authority’ questions you, you become uncertain of yourself. Most people are like that. As stubborn as I always am, even I used to be like that too when I was a HO or a junior MO.

Now, I am more certain and more confident of myself in general. Yes, I still doubt myself, but much less than I used to. If I don’t know, I will say I don’t know. BUT… If I know what I know, there is NOTHING you can say that will convince me that I was wrong. I accept only evidences and references. You must give me more than words before I will accept I was wrong. I had invested time and effort to read my academic materials to come to a conclusion of certain facts, and for you to say that I am wrong, you must give me enough reasoning and evidence for me to change my mind. I would love to learn the right thing…. but I am not suggestible. I might pretend to accept what you say just to keep the harmony… but I will not accept anybody’s dubious words at face value without doing my own research.  I will go back home and verify your answer until I am satisfied. 

But even I sometimes feel unsure whether or not I will ever be as staunch and resolute the way Muhammad Ali had been.

In his life, Muhammad Ali provoked his opponents with razor-sharp words that rhyme and comical one-liners that hurt. But what made him an iconic cultural figure was his quotes on achievement, social justice, religion and war. And what made him greatly impressive was his rock-solid stance in his principles.  

***

Why did I say Muhammad Ali would have passed the Gudjonsson Scale with flying colours?

Well, because he was the epitome of faith and belief in himself and in his religion that there is just no room for him to doubt himself on what was the right course of action. He knew what he knew and even if the whole country was against him, he would not budge.

muhammad-ali-motivational-message-and-quotes-4-638

He held firm to his principles and his belief NOT to fight in the Vietnam War waged by the Americans towards the Viet Cong. Because he was persistent in sticking to his belief, he was exiled from boxing, ostracized by his peers and fans, and stripped of his crown as the heavyweight champion of the world. He was pressured right, left and center. People called him as a coward for refusing to fight a war he did not believe in. He lost almost everything – money, fame and reputation – and he also had to face the risk of prison for refusing to go to war… but he remained firm in his decision.

Muhammad Ali had declared himself as a conscientious objector and refused induction into the U.S army, famously saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,”. He also had said “No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger,”

vietnam war

 

He was also recorded to say, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

I am free

I especially love Muhammad Ali’s beautiful words in defending his stance: “I believe in Allah and in peace. I know where I am going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I am free to be what I want. You can’t condemn a man for wanting peace. If you do, you condemn peace itself. A rooster crows when he sees the light. I have seen the light and I’m crowing!”

Beautiful!

But his words had upset the US Government. So, the US government then tried to send him to prison. He was put on trial and sentenced to 5 years in jail and $10,000 fine.  He was also banned from travelling and was not allowed to participate in matches outside the US. To this, he had said, “They want to stop me working, not only in this country, but out of it”. He must have suffered greatly at that time but he pushed on. 

He was 3 years in exile from boxing. And he almost had to serve his prison sentences, but fortunately, the US Supreme Court later overturned his charges. Muhammad Ali praised God on hearing the news. “I’ve done my celebrating already. I said a prayer to Allah.” 

He added, “They did what they thought was right, and I did what I thought was right.” To him, it was as simple as that.

Muhammad Ali had no higher education. He came from a poor family. But when he spoke, it was full with conviction in his faith and belief system. 

After 3 years in exile, he then resumed his boxing career after the Supreme Court had overturned the charges. Amazingly, he returned to the ring stronger than ever, winning match after match, strengthening his reputation in leaps and bounds.

History later had proven him right. Vietnam War was an embarrassing failure to the US. The US had lost the war and its veterans returned home to taunts and abuse by their own countrymen who were frustrated by the cost of the war to the US economy and to the morale of the country. Influential Hollywood celebrities started to protest the war which Muhammad Ali had condemned much earlier from the very beginning. University students had begun to protest the prolonged war with pickets and demonstrations, cementing the fact that Muhammad Ali was right not to be enlisted even at the risk of being imprisoned.

The truth had prevailed and Muhammad Ali’s wisdom had shone crystal clear and bright.

See?

As I had said, even though he was this great boxing legend of the world, his most impressive achievement was not made in the boxing ring. It was in the way he stood up for what he believed as right, no matter what!

Years later, Muhammad Ali’s name on the Walk of Fame was placed on the wall, instead of on  the ground as in the case of the rest of the other famous celebrities. I am sure, his name was supposed to be on the ground initially… but knowing Muhammad Ali, he must have insisted that his name should be placed on the wall… or NOT AT ALL. And his wish was accommodated since his name is so great that it would be preposterous and ridiculous to leave his name out of the Walk of Fame. So finally, when his name was placed on  the Walk of Fame…it was on the wall, as he had wished, instead of on the ground like the rest of the others!

 

When asked regarding why he wanted his name to be placed on the wall, he had said, “Because I don’t want the name of Muhammad to be stepped on.”

This, my dear readers, is the greatness of Muhammad Ali. May Allah be pleased with him.

Ali
May Allah be pleased with you. Amin.